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See also: oölogy



A nest of eggs laid by a shorebird at the Cape Krusenstern National Monument in Alaska, USA. Oology (sense 2), the practice of collecting such eggs, is now illegal in many countries as it harms wildlife.

From oo- (prefix meaning ‘relating to eggs or ova’) +‎ -logy (suffix indicating a branch of learning or study of a subject). The word is cognate with French oologie, Late Latin oologia.[1]



oology (uncountable)

  1. (ornithology) The study of birds' eggs. [from 19th c.]
    • 1857, Thomas M[ayo] Brewer, “Introduction”, in North American Oölogy (Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge; XI), part I (Raptores and Fissirostres), Washington, D.C.: Published by the Smithsonian Institution, published 1859, OCLC 43093861, page vi:
      Yet it is not difficult to see that Oölogy promises to become an important auxiliary both in aiding to determine natural divisions, and to enable us to decide in regard to varieties the specific identity of which is in doubt. Let us take an instance. [...] Without looking at all to the external structure of these birds, Oölogy would seem to indicate that the Cat-Bird, though closely allied to the true Mocking-Bird, is at least one step, and that the Brown Thrush is even farther, removed.
    • 1858 December, “IX. Review of Mr. [C. R.] Brees ‘Birds of Europe Not Observed in the British Isles.’”, in Philip Lutley Sclater, editor, The Ibis, a Magazine of General Ornithology, volume I, number I, London: N[icholas] Trübner and Co., [], published January 1859, ISSN 1474-919X, OCLC 1112836013, pages 96–97:
      Now here is just one of those cases, which bring the study of Oology, and very justly, into more discredit than any other thing. M. [Alfred] Moquin-Tandon's egg is very likely that of a Booted Eagle; but where is the proof of the fact? Absolutely, as we read it, there is none. [...] There are many collectors in this country, who yearly spend large sums in buying eggs from dealers—utterly un-identified, or with (since identification of eggs has lately become somewhat fashionable) a plausible history, but one that will not bear investigation.
    • [1864 February, [George] Rolleston, “Meeting of British Association. [Physiology.]”, in David A. P. Watt, editor, The Canadian Naturalist and Geologist: A Bi-monthly Journal of Natural Science [], volume I (Second Series), Montreal, Que.: Dawson Brothers, [], OCLC 925538722, page 76:
      A short sketch, such as Mr. [Cholmondeley] Pennell's, of the economy of the Bird, would be a most valuable addition to our ordinary ornithologies and oologies. He said oologies, for even in the egg of the bird the special needs of the forthcoming bird seemed to be more especially provided for than in the eggs of other families much higher in the scale.
      Used here to mean a work about oology.]
    • 1893, R[obert] W[ilson] Shufeldt, “Comparative Oölogy of North American Birds”, in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Condition of the Institution for the Year Ending June 30, 1892: Report of the U.S. National Museum (The Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Fifty-second Congress; Mis. Doc. 114, part 2), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 859343879, page 473:
      When we come to examine the oölogy of the great Columbo-gallinaceous group, one well represented in the avifauna of the United States, it is possible to make the comparisons quite extensive, owing to [Charles] Bendire's exhaustive labors, as seen in his fine quarto volume already spoken of at the beginning of this paper.
    • 1991, D. Charles Deeming and Mark W. J. Ferguson, editors, Egg Incubation: Its Effects on Embryonic Development in Birds and Reptiles, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page ix:
      The philosophy behind this meeting was to bring together scientists who specialised in the incubation and physiology of avian embryos with those workers interested in reptilian eggs and embryos. Leading authorities within many fields of incubation, oology and embryology were invited to give a presentation reviewing current knowledge within their sphere of research.
  2. The hobby or practice of collecting birds' eggs, especially those of wild birds.
    Synonyms: birdnesting, egging
    • 1989, J. H. Becking, “Biography”, in Henri Jacob Victor Sody (1892–1959): His Life and Work: A Biographical and Bibliographical Study, Leiden: E[vert] J[an] Brill, →ISBN, section c (Scientific Interests and Achievements), page 8:
      Besides his life as a student, Han [Henri Jacob Victor Sody] continued to be interested in ornithology, particularly oology. Apparently, he was a diligent collector of birds' eggs, both in the vicinity of Wageningen, and on excursion for this purpose to other places (Breda, Texel, etc.), and compiled a catalogue of eggs collected by him in The Netherlands.
    • 2010, Peter Capainolo; Carol A. Butler, “Raptor Reproduction”, in How Fast can a Falcon Dive?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Birds of Prey (Animal Q&A), New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, →ISBN, page 84:
      In the late nineteenth century, there was a huge upsurge of interest in natural history collections by scientists and ordinary citizens. Victorian homes were commonly decorated with collections of stuffed birds, and oology, the study and collection of eggs blown clean of their contents, was all the rage.
    • 2011 December, Renée Thompson, “Acknowledgements”, in The Plume Hunter, Torrey, Ut.: Torrey House Press, →ISBN, page 260:
      Dave Marshall, Frank Graham, Chuck Henny, Lloyd Kiff, Phil Cuthbert, and Joe Mazzoni shared their knowledge of hunting, oölogy, and bird-skin preservation, and provided philosophical insight concerning men's desire to hunt.
    • 2013, Simon Winder, Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe, London: Picador, →ISBN; republished London: Picador, 2014, →ISBN, page 425:
      Rudolf II's mania for [Bartholomeus] Spranger's porny Roman goddesses, Ferdinand II's devotion to big altarpieces, sudden gusts of oology, a bouquet of flowers made from precious stones given to Franz I by Maria Theresa – these all now became part of public sensibility.
    • 2016, Douglas Brinkley, “‘All that is in Me Goes back to the Hudson’”, in Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America, New York, N.Y.: Harper, HarperCollins, →ISBN, part I (The Education of a Hudson River Conservationist, 1882–1932), section III:
      Barely a day went by when Franklin [Delano Roosevelt] didn't talk about the world of birds. At ten years old he started dabbling in oology, the collecting of eggs and nests.
    • 2016, Stephen Moss, “How Do We Relate to Birds?”, in Do Birds have Knees?: All Your Bird Questions Answered (RSPB series), London; New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury Natural History, Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, page 225, column 2:
      Oology is the 'pseudo-science' of egg-collecting. For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries this was a respectable and popular activity, very much part of the ornithological establishment. However, as bird protection gradually gained in popularity, egg-collecting declined, and was finally made illegal under various Bird Protection Acts following the Second World War.

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